When a journalist asked the 1940’s criminal Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, Sutton answered, “Because that’s where the money is.” The quote has passed into popular history, and its proved useful in many areas, including the learned professions. In his autobiography, Where the Money Was, Sutton tells how medical schools adopted as a diagnostic tool "Sutton's Law" -- the idea of looking for the obvious, before going further afield.
Considering he robbed over one hundred banks and spent half his life behind bars, Willie was a surprise to those who met him. He was an intelligent, reflective man who avoided violence. He was also a non-threatening charmer – which was why he was able to escape from three prisons. And although he never realized it, Willie was a great instructor. He can still teach us things about theft.
What things? First of all, there’s “Sutton’s Law” which reminds us that a thief will look for the obvious – he’ll strike where you’re vulnerable and where the money is. Second, Willie’s career is testimony to the fact that the most successful thieves will use your expectations against you. Willie describes in his first book how he discovered a fundamental truth. Disconsolate after a botched safe-cracking job, Sutton watched as an armoured truck pulled up to a bank. Uniformed guards climbed out and knocked on the bank window. Moments later, the locked doors were opened and the guards strolled in. After ten minutes, they exited the bank carrying bags of money. Willie couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He realized you didn’t have to tunnel under the floor, use nitro, or brandish weapons. If you wore the right uniform, the bank would give you the money. At that moment of enlightenment, Willie Sutton the actor was born.